If you're sure you understand everthing that is going on, you're hopelessly confused. - Walter Mondale
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 106, Part I, 29 August 1997



This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia
and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second
document.  Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available
through RFE/RL's WWW pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through
OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN CREATES MILITARY INSPECTORATE

* MOSCOW "CATEGORICALLY" DENIES REPORTS OF NUCLEAR TEST

* TAJIKISTAN'S CHIEF MUFTI KIDNAPPED

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN CREATES MILITARY INSPECTORATE. President Boris Yeltsin
on 28 August issued a decree "on measures to strengthen state
direction of military organization in the Russian Federation." The
decree creates a State Military Inspectorate, which will be part of the
presidential administration. It also removes Yurii Baturin as Defense
Council secretary and appoints First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei
Kokoshin as state military inspector and Defense Council secretary.
Kokoshin will leave his Defense Ministry post, which he has held
since spring 1992. He told Interfax that he does not plan any changes
in the Defense Council staff. The Chief Military Inspectorate will
coordinate government defense policy and will oversee the
implementation of decisions and decrees in that area, Kokoshin said.
Baturin had headed the Defense Council since its creation in July
1996. According to ITAR-TASS, he will remain a presidential adviser.
Both Baturin and Kokoshin are civilians.

MOSCOW "CATEGORICALLY" DENIES REPORTS OF NUCLEAR TEST. In
an interview with ITAR-TASS on 29 August, Russian Atomic Energy
Minister Viktor Mikhailov "categorically" denied recent reports in the
Western press that Russia may have conducted a nuclear test at the
Arctic site of Novaya Zemlya. On 28 August, Washington officially
asked Moscow for an explanation of a "seismic event with explosive
characteristics" recorded near that site in mid-August. Mikhailov said
that only hydrodynamic experiments have taken place at Novaya
Zemlya. He blamed any seismic incidents on earthquakes, which, he
said, are quite common in that region. Staging a nuclear test would
contravene the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which Russia and the
U.S. have signed but not yet ratified.

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN TREATY. Levon Ter-
Petrossyan and Yeltsin, meeting on the second day of Ter-
Petrossyan's state visit to Moscow, signed a treaty on friendship,
cooperation, and mutual assistance, Russian media reported on 29
August. Yeltsin commented that the treaty "meets the vital and
lasting interests of the two states." The two leaders also signed
several agreements, including on the transit of oil across Armenia.

CAREER DIPLOMAT TO HEAD CIS AFFAIRS MINISTRY. Yeltsin on 28
August appointed Anatolii Adamishin as CIS Affairs Minister, filling a
government post that had been vacant for nearly two months,
Russian news agencies reported. Adamishin most recently served as
Russia's ambassador to the United Kingdom from September 1994
until June 1997. He was deputy Soviet Foreign Minister from 1986
until 1990 and was first deputy to Russian Foreign Minister Andrei
Kozyrev from 1992 to 1994. According to the 29 August
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," Adamishin was considered a strong contender
to replace Kozyrev as foreign minister in 1994, but Kozyrev held on
to his post until January 1996. Yeltsin appointed former CIS Affairs
Minister Aman Tuleev as governor of Kemerovo Oblast on 1 July.

YELTSIN REPLACES CULTURE MINISTER... Yeltsin on 28 August
appointed Natalya Dementeva as culture minister to replace Yevgenii
Sidorov, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Dementeva had served
as director of the State History Museum in St. Petersburg's Peter and
Paul Fortress since 1987. She told ITAR-TASS that in her new post,
she hopes "to achieve greater fairness in [the government's]
treatment of museums and libraries." Most Russian museums and
libraries face chronic funding problems. Sidorov had served in the
government since March 1992 and had survived numerous cabinet
reshuffles. No reason was given for his dismissal; the presidential
press service said only that he is to be transferred to an unspecified
new post. Dementeva is the third woman in the Russian cabinet. On
25 August, Yeltsin appointed Natalya Fonareva to head the State
Anti-Monopoly Committee. Health Minister Tatyana Dmitrieva was
appointed in August 1996.

... APPOINTS HEAD OF NEW TV NETWORK. Also on 28 August, Yeltsin
appointed Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi as chief editor
of the new state-run television network Kultura. The network will
broadcast nationwide, excluding St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast,
where its programs will be broadcast for only a few hours a day (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997). Its programs will be produced
in Moscow and broadcast on a frequency currently used by the St.
Petersburg Channel 5 network. In a 29 August nationwide radio
address, Yeltsin said that, in creating the new network, "we are
repaying our debt to Russian culture." He expressed hope that
Kultura will not "frighten us with crime horror stories and will not
fill our heads with political squabbles." Kultura will not broadcast
commercial advertisements and will show primarily cultural and
educational programs.

NEW NETWORK UNWELCOME IN ST. PETERSBURG. Political leaders
and well-known cultural figures in St. Petersburg are unhappy with
Yeltsin's decree creating Kultura, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city
reported on 28 August. Yurii Kravtsov, chairman of the St.
Petersburg legislature, has issued a statement protesting that the city
"has been deprived of its voice." In his 29 August radio address,
Yeltsin addressed those concerns, noting that new Culture Minister
Dementeva "understands the enormous capabilities of our northern
capital like no one else." The president added that Dementeva will
make sure that St. Petersburg's history, culture and art are well
represented on Kultura broadcasts.

CHUBAIS TO LOBBY FOR BUDGET IN DUMA. First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatolii Chubais has been instructed to work with members
of the parliament to secure the passage of the 1998 budget, Interfax
reported on 28 August. Chubais is far more unpopular in the State
Duma than Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, especially among
Communist deputies, who along with left-wing allies have a near-
majority in the Duma. Duma Security Committee Chairman and
Communist Viktor Ilyukhin has claimed that U.S. banks have
allocated $4 million to a British company charged with improving
Chubais's image in time for the next presidential election,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 August. Last year, the
Communist Duma faction threatened to vote against the 1997 budget
if 11 conditions were not met, including the dismissal of Chubais as
then presidential chief of staff. Although Chubais was not fired, most
Communist deputies voted for the budget's passage.

DUMA LEADER OF OUR HOME IS RUSSIA RESIGNS. Sergei Belyaev
announced on 29 August that he is resigning as leader of the Our
Home is Russia (NDR) Duma faction and as deputy chairman of the
NDR council, ITAR-TASS reported. He told journalists that the pro-
government movement, chaired by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, is
"sliding toward the principles of bureaucratic, nomenklatura
leadership." He also charged that the NDR is drawing closer
ideologically to the "communist left camp." Belyaev said he is ready
to cooperate with Duma deputies from Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's
Democratic Choice (DVR). (In the December 1995 parliamentary
election, nine DVR members were elected to the Duma.)
Chernomyrdin announced in July that Belyaev was resigning, but at
the time Belyaev denied having any such plans. "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 29 August that at least 10 deputies are expected
to quit the NDR faction along with Belyaev.

YELTSIN WANTS MORE RIGHTS FOR REGIONS. Yeltsin told Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin on 28 August that "Russian Federation
subjects must be given more rights," ITAR-TASS reported. Noting
that he was impressed during a recent visit to Saratov Oblast, Yeltsin
said that "governors who take initiative can do many things on their
own, we can trust them." Yeltsin made similar remarks during his
visit to Saratov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997). However, a
July presidential decree enhancing the powers of Yeltsin's appointed
representatives in the regions has been viewed as an attempt to
reduce the authority of elected governors, in particular their power
to supervise how federal funds are spent in the regions.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT INCREASES. Foreign investment totaled $6.67
billion during the first half of 1997, more than triple the $2.01 billion
recorded during the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on
28 August, citing the State Statistics Committee. Foreign investment
totaled $6.5 billion in 1996. As of 1 July 1997, total foreign
investment was relatively low at $17.8 billion (the corresponding
figure for Hungary, for example. at the end of 1996 was $16 billion).
But in a recent survey of 40 leading investment firms conducted by
the U.S. firm Broadgate Consultants, three-quarters of respondents
said Russia is the "premier vehicle for post-communist investment,"
an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 25 August.
Sixty percent of respondents said Russia's stock market -- which has
gone up some 200 percent during the last year -- is still
undervalued.

ABDULATIPOV SAYS "UTOPIAN" TO VIEW CHECHNYA AS PART OF
RUSSIA. In a live interview with Ekho Moskvy on 28 August, Russian
Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov said "it is utopian to
regard Chechnya as a member of the federation now." But he added
that no one should forget that Chechnya is listed as a member of the
federation in the Russian Constitution. He suggested that a solution
should be found that took into account both "axioms." Finding a
solution will take a long time, Abdulatipov said, but no one should
predict the outcome in terms of Chechnya's "entrance" or "exit" from
Russia "as if other forms of cooperation did not exist." Abdulatipov's
comments are the clearest indication yet that at least some in the
Russian government are willing to accept a dramatically different
status for Chechnya than the one outlined in the Russian Constitution
for all federation subjects.

CHECHENS, RUSSIANS DISCUSS PIPELINE DEAL. Russian First Deputy
Premier Boris Nemtsov told Interfax on 28 August that Moscow and
Grozny are making progress toward an agreement that would allow
Caspian basin oil to flow across Chechnya. Nemtsov's upbeat
assessment, however, is not supported by reports that the Chechen
leadership is interested in exploring a Georgian route that would
bypass the Russian Federation. Those reports, which surfaced in the
past, have gained new currency as the Chechen government seeks to
arrange a high-level meeting with Tbilisi.

TATAR WORLD CONGRESS OPENS IN KAZAN. The Second World
Congress of Tatars, which opened in Kazan on 29 August, has
attracted some 460 delegates from more than 20 states and more
than 60 Russian regions, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported.
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Abdulatipov, and Russian State Duma Nationalities' Affairs
Committee Chairman Vladimir Zorin are all attending the two-day
meeting. On the agenda are the revival of the Tatar nation and
expanded contacts among Tatars worldwide.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIKISTAN'S CHIEF MUFTI KIDNAPPED. Amonullo Negmatzoda,
Tajikistan's chief Islamic cleric, was kidnapped by unidentified
persons on 27 August, an RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe
reported. The Interior Ministry on 29 August confirmed that
Negmatzoda was missing and presumed kidnapped, but it could not
say if there was any truth to rumors that Rezvon Sadirov was
responsible. In February, Sadirov and his brother Bahrom briefly
held hostage members of the UN observer team in Tajikistan. Two of
Negmatzoda's sons were kidnapped in late July. It is speculated that
Negmatzoda was going to meet with the kidnappers when he, too,
disappeared.

KYRGYZ WATER COMMISSION CHIEF CRITICIZES LACK OF PROGRESS.
Turdakan Usubaliyev, the head of the Kyrgyz parliamentary
commission on water issues, met with commission members and
officials from the Justice and Foreign Ministries on 28 August,
RFE/RL corespondents in Bishkek reported. Usubaliyev said that
"next to nothing" has been done to implement the parliament's 27
June decision to charge Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for water from
Kyrgyz reservoirs. The parliament called for concrete plans on prices
for those supplies.

RES PUBLICA EDITOR NOMINATED AS PARLIAMENT CANDIDATE.
Residents of Bishkek's Vostok-5 area have nominated Zamira
Sydykova as their choice to fill an empty seat in parliament, RFE/RL
correspondents reported on 28 August. Sydykova, who has been
chief editor of Kyrgyzstan's only independent newspaper since 1992,
was recently released from prison after serving a sentence on
charges of libel against the head of Kyrgyzstan's state gold company.
>From August 1995 to January 1997, she was barred from practicing
journalism after being found guilty of libel against President Askar
Akayev. Her nomination to the parliament is expected to be seconded
at a meeting of the Movement for the Protection of the People on 29
August. Sydykova would take the seat vacated by Mira Jangaracheva
in 1996, when she was appointed deputy premier.

KYRGYZ MUFTIAT TO DISCUSS WAHHABISM. The Muftiat (Muslim
Board) will meet in September to discuss the spread of Wahhabi
movements in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek
reported. The announcement was made by head of the Muftiat
Abdysatar-Agy Majitov on 28 August.

AZERBAIJAN TO AGAIN RETRANSMIT IRANIAN TV BROADCASTS.
Nizami Khudiev, the chairman of Azerbaijani State Television (AzTV)
said an agreement with Iranian Television on re-broadcasting will be
signed in September, an RFE/RL correspondent in Baku reported on
28 August. Under a 1993 agreement, AzTV aired a one-hour Iranian
Television broadcast each day but suspended those broadcasts in
June 1997 because of alleged extremist and anti-Azeri propaganda.
Iran had stopped Azeri broadcasting to Iran almost immediately
after it began in 1993, citing technical reasons. Khudiev said that
under the new agreement, Azeri programs in Iran and Iranian
broadcasts in Azerbaijan will be aired at the same time.

NEW TREASON TRIAL IN AZERBAIJAN. In an interview published in
"Panorama" on 28 August, Minister of National Security Namiq
Abbasov said a group of people involved in an attempted coup d'etat
will go on trial within the next two months. Abbasov said an assassin
hired by former Prime Minister Suret Husseinov to murder President
Heidar Aliev has been arrested in Baku along with other members of
a terrorist group planning a series of attacks in Baku. Abbasov also
claimed that the terrorist group unsuccessfully attempted to blow up
the office of the Permanent Representative of Naxcivan Republic in
Baku. Abbasov accused former President Ayaz Mutalibov and ex-KGB
chief Vagif Guseinov of being behind the plot.

CHINA SEEKS EXPANDED TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN. Wang Bingquian,
the deputy leader of the Chinese parliament, said on August 28 that
Beijing wants to dramatically expand its ties with Baku on all levels,
ITAR-TASS reported. Wang made his remarks on arriving in the
Azerbaijani capital for a four-day official visit. China and Azerbaijan
signed a friendship and cooperation accord during President Aliev's
visit to Beijing in 1994.


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               Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 105, Part I, 28 August 1997

This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia
and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second
document.  Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available
through RFE/RL's WWW pages:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through
OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* CHUBAIS WANTS INCREASED OVERSIGHT OF MONOPOLIES'
INVESTMENTS

* ABDUCTED JOURNALISTS DECLINE TO ASSIST INVESTIGATION

* TAJIK POLICE KILL SEVERAL OPPOSITION MEMBERS

End Note
RUSSIA, ARMENIA TO SIGN MAJOR GAS DEAL

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RUSSIA

CHUBAIS WANTS INCREASED OVERSIGHT OF MONOPOLIES'
INVESTMENTS... First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais has
called for strengthening state oversight of investments by "natural
monopolies," ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. Russia's three
largest such monopolies are Gazprom, Unified Energy Systems, and
the Railroad Ministry, in all of which the state is the largest single
shareholder. Chairing a government meeting, Chubais said
investments by those three monopolies will amount to 89 trillion
rubles ($15 billion) in 1997. That figure is five times the planned
total state investment in 1997 and 2.5 times the total foreign
investment in Russia last year, according to "Segodnya" on 27 August.
"Izvestiya" argued the same day that the huge sums invested by the
three monopolies indicate they are prospering at the state's expense.
Several ministries are to coordinate investment projects with the
monopolies; and beginning in January 1998, the State Statistics
Committee will prepare quarterly reports on monopolies'
investments.

...PROMISES HELP FOR COAL INDUSTRY WORKERS. Addressing a
congress of coal industry workers on 27 August, Chubais promised to
take steps to end the "intolerable" growth in non-payments to coal
enterprises and wage arrears to coal workers, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 28 August. Noting that coal workers are owed 3.1 trillion
rubles ($530 million) in back wages, Chubais said consumers --
mostly power plants -- owe 90 percent of the 9 trillion rubles in
debts to coal enterprises. But he expressed optimism that before the
end of the year, the World Bank will extend a second loan of $500
million for restructuring the coal industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
August 1997). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted that in recent months,
the government has largely met its spending targets for the coal
industry. The number of strikes at coal mines has declined from 160
in February to 14 in July and four in August, the daily added.

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Meeting in Moscow on
27 August, Hennady Udovenko and his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii
Primakov, reviewed progress in implementing agreements reached
by Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Yeltsin during their May meeting
in Kyiv, Russian media reported. The two ministers also signed a
statement stipulating the legal aspects of the border issue. Primakov
was quoted as saying that demarcation of the Russian-Ukrainian
border is "not an issue for today." Border negotiations are scheduled
to continue in the Russian city of Bryansk in September. Udovenko
also met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss issues
related to bilateral cooperation. Udovenko announced that President
Kuchma will visit Moscow in January or February 1998.

CONFUSION OVER FOREIGN MINISTER'S UPCOMING TURKEY VISIT.
Russian Foreign Ministry officials have denied Turkish media reports
that Yevgenii Primakov will visit Ankara in the next few months,
Interfax reported on 27 August. The officials admitted that Primakov
has received an invitation from the Turkish government but said
that "neither the date nor the agenda" has yet been decided. AFP on
26 August had quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official
as stating that Primakov will travel to Ankara in October and that
the visit has been planned for a long time. Similarly, Turkish Foreign
Ministry spokesman Omer Akbel told journalists in Ankara on 27
August that the visit is expected to take place, the "Turkish Daily
News" reported. Akbel also noted that the deployment of Russian S-
300 anti-aircraft missiles in Greek Cyprus earlier than planned is a
"very grave development."

ABDUCTED JOURNALISTS DECLINE TO ASSIST INVESTIGATION. Ilyas
Bogatyrev and Vladislav Chernyaev, employees of the Russian
television production company VID who were recently released after
being held hostage in Chechnya for two months, have said they "have
no particular desire" to testify to Chechen investigators currently in
Moscow to determine the circumstances of their release, ITAR-TASS
reported. The two men said they do not think there is any point in
giving evidence as they are certain that "none of the criminals will be
punished." The Chechens are investigating claims by NTV that it paid
a $2 million ransom for the release of three of its journalists who
were likewise abducted in Chechnya. Chechen leaders have denied
those allegations. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 27 August that a cash payment was made to
people who helped establish where the journalists were being held
captive but that no ransom money changed hands.

CHECHNYA DOUBTS PIPELINE WILL BE READY BY OCTOBER... Khozh-
Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of Chechnya's state oil company
Yunko, said on 27 August that he "will never sign" a new draft
agreement on the transit of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya,
Interfax reported. Yarikhanov said the document, which was
delivered to Grozny by Russian First Deputy Fuel and Energy
Minister Sergei Kirienko, is "politically charged" and contains
"numerous references to Chechnya as a member of the Russian
Federation." Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov told journalists
in Baku on 27 August that he doubts the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk
pipeline will be operational by 1 October when the first "early oil" is
scheduled to be exported. Arsanov said that Chechnya plans to build
a new pipeline from Grozny through Georigia to the Black Sea, Turan
reported.

...BUT RUSSIA SAYS IT WILL BE. In Moscow, however, Russian
Security Council Secretary Rybkin has said preparations have been
made for repair work on the pipeline, Interfax reported. He added
that the repairs can be completed within three weeks. First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister,
said Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has assured him by
telephone on 26 August that Grozny will not obstruct repairs.

YABLOKO DEPUTY APPRAISES DRAFT BUDGET. Yabloko member
Oksana Dmitrieva, who heads a State Duma subcommittee on the
budget, has described the 1998 draft budget as the first "realistic"
budget submitted by the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 27
August. She praised the government for planning to increase
expenditures on the health care system and to reduce funds allocated
for general supplies to far northern regions, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported on 28 August. However, Dmitrieva criticized what she called
the "military-police orientation" of the draft budget. She noted that
while many state subsidies are to be cut, the government has
proposed that the money saved be spent on the "power ministries"
rather than on social programs. The Yabloko faction voted against the
1997 budget in all readings in the Duma. Yabloko leader Grigorii
Yavlinskii has frequently called on the government to change its
spending priorities.

OFFICIAL PREDICTS BIDS TO AMEND ELECTORAL LAW. Central
Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko has predicted
that the coming months will bring a "lively discussion" on amending
the electoral law, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 27 August.
Ivanchenko advocates reducing the number of State Duma deputies
elected using a proportional representation system. Currently, 225
Duma deputies are chosen from lists submitted by parties that gain
at least 5 percent of the vote. The other 225 deputies are elected by
a plurality of the vote in single-member districts. Ivanchenko noted
that all but one of Russia's 89 regions elect their legislatures using
only single-member districts. He also said the legality of the
proportional representation system has been contested in several
court appeals. The Supreme Court rejected one such appeal in April,
but the Constitutional Court has yet to rule on a similar case (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997).

DUMA DEPUTY WANTS TO ABOLISH PROPORTIONAL
REPRESENTATION. Duma deputy Vladimir Medvedev argued in
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 28 August that the electoral law should be
amended to do away with proportional representation. Medvedev
said that half of the Duma should be chosen from professional
associations, such as the Union of Lawyers and the Union of
Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, instead of from party lists. The
other 225 deputies, he said, would be elected in single-member
districts, as under the current electoral law. Such a system would
"raise the professionalism" of the Duma, Medvedev added. Medvedev
belongs to the Russian Regions faction, composed entirely of Duma
deputies elected in single-member districts. He also argued against
introducing the "imperative mandate" recently proposed by Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, which would allow faction leaders to
strip members of their Duma mandates for violating party discipline
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 1997).

PATRIARCH AGAINST "NORTH AMERICAN NORMS." Patriarch of
Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, the head of the Russian Orthodox
Church, has spoken out against making Russian legislation conform to
"North American norms" on religious activity, ITAR-TASS reported
on 27 August. After a meeting with Christoph Schoenborn, the
archbishop of Vienna, Aleksii said Russian law should recognize "our
own traditions and history." He added that proselytizing should be
banned because it attempts to "entice people who profess the religion
of their ancestors into a different faith." The Vatican and the U.S.
Senate, among others, sharply criticized a proposed law on religious
organizations as discriminatory. Yeltsin later vetoed that law in July.
Aleksii recently said a revised version of the religion law should
retain a clause recognizing the special role of the Russian Orthodox
Church in Russian history.

PUBLISHING EXECUTIVE KILLED. Aleksandr Krutik, commercial
director and one of the founders of the Drofa publishing house, was
shot dead near his Moscow apartment on 26 August, Russian media
reported. Drofa produced more than 2 million textbooks monthly and
had a contract to produce some 30 percent of the books ordered by
the Education Ministry in 1996 and 1997, according to the 28 August
"Kommersant-Daily." The November 1996 murder of Drofa's deputy
director-general, Vladimir Vishnyakov, remains unsolved. Members
of the Drofa board of directors, which held an emergency meeting on
27 August, believe the killings of Krutik and Vishnyakov indicate
that competitors are trying to force Drofa out of the textbook
publishing market. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev recently
warned that Russian schools face a severe shortage of textbooks (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997).

PRESS ADVOCATES ALARMED BY RECENT TRENDS. Vsevolod
Bogdanov, chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia, announced
on 27 August that subscriptions to all Russian newspapers and
magazines for the second half of 1997 totaled some 7 million, down
20 percent on the same period in 1996, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported. Moscow-based newspapers suffered the largest drop in
circulation. Bogdanov also said some 60 percent of Russian journalists
earn less than $100 a month. Aleksei Simonov, head of the watchdog
Glasnost Defense Foundation, noted that the press is increasingly
forced to serve as "propagandist and agitator" for the investors on
whom publications depend to survive, ITAR-TASS reported.
Bogdanov called on the state to guarantee the economic
independence of the media and vowed to fight to retain tax breaks
for the media outlets. The draft tax code proposed by the
government would revoke privileges for the media.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK POLICE KILL SEVERAL OPPOSITION MEMBERS. Several
members of the Tajik opposition were killed by police in Kofarnikhon
on 27 August. ITAR-TASS reported that four men were killed in an
exchange of fire after they attacked a police roadblock. But United
Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told RFE/RL's Tajik service
that local militia shot five UTO members in the back without
provocation. At Nuri's request, representatives of the UN and
countries that are guarantors of the peace process are currently
investigating the matter. Both Nuri and Ali Akbar Turajonzoda have
ordered UTO fighters not to respond with violence or any actions that
could threaten the peace process.

KAZAKHSTAN CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIA'S CASPIAN TENDER.
Speaking at a news conference on 27 August, Kazakh Foreign
Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev said his country was concerned about
reports that Russia will hold a tender for developing the Caspian
shelf, ITAR-TASS reported. Tokayev said part of the shelf to be
offered at the tender belongs to Kazakhstan. He added that Almaty
will send an official note to Russia to reconsider holding the tender
and to conduct negotiations with Kazakhstan first. Tokayev said his
government favors consent by all Caspian states before any tenders
for oil shares in the Caspian Sea are held.

DEATH TOLL IN ARMENIAN BUS EXPLOSION RISES TO SIX. Six people
have so far died as a result of injuries sustained when a bus
traveling between Yerevan and the southeastern town of Kapan hit a
land mine and caught fire on 22 August, Interfax reported. Mines
were laid near the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier from 1992-94
during fighting for control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

ARMENIA REITERATES KARABAKH NEGOTIATING POSITION. Foreign
Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan told journalists in Yerevan on
27 August that a breakthrough in resolving the Karabakh conflict can
be achieved only by direct talks between Baku and the Nagorno-
Karabakh leadership, ARMENPRESS and Interfax reported. Gasparyan
said Armenia considers that measures to promote regional security
are crucial to a settlement of the conflict and should be addressed
separately in a settlement document. He also criticized the
Azerbaijani leadership for "intentionally distorting" the recent
proposals made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe's Minsk Group. On a recent visit to Stepanakert and Yerevan,
Frank Lambach, Germany's representative to the Minsk Group, also
advocated direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert.

ARMENIAN INTELLECTUALS CALL FOR WAR HERO'S RELEASE.
Leading Armenian intellectuals, scientists, and journalists have
appealed to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan to pardon Hrant
Markaryan, a prominent Dashnak party member and veteran of the
Karabakh war, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 August.
Hrant Markaryan is serving a five-year prison term after being
convicted in December 1996 of illegal possession of arms. Two years
earlier, Markaryan had been arrested, along with other Dashnak
party members, on charges of setting up a terrorist group named Dro.
The charges of terrorism against Markaryan were subsequently
dropped for lack of evidence. Editors of pro-government and
opposition newspapers recently addressed a similar plea to President
Ter-Petrossyan to pardon Markaryan.

ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT IN EXILE MEETS. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze and members of the Georgian "Apkhazeti"
parliamentary faction, which represents ethnic Georgians who fled
Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war, attended a session of the Abkhaz
parliament in exile held in the Georgian capital on 27 August,
RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported, citing BS-Press. Tamaz
Nadareishvili, the chairman of the parliament in exile, again argued
that Georgia can restore its hegemony over Abkhazia only by force.
He criticized the agreement recently signed by Shevardnadze and
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, which he said had encouraged
Abkhazia to assume an even more radical position. The parliament in
exile demanded the right to participate at any further Abkhaz-
Georgian negotiations. Shevardnadze told the session that Georgia
and Abkhazia will soon sign an interim protocol paving the way for
Abkhazia's inclusion in a federal Georgian state, Interfax reported.

END NOTE

RUSSIA, ARMENIA TO SIGN MAJOR GAS DEAL

by Liz Fuller

        Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan arrived in Moscow
on 28 August for a three-day state visit. Ter-Petrossyan and his
Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, are to sign a new friendship and
cooperation treaty. According to Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, this "major treaty" will "give new impetus" to the
already harmonious bilateral relations between Moscow and
Yerevan. Another key agreement is expected to be signed by
Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirossyan and the chairman of
Russia's Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev. That accord provides for the
creation of a joint venture to export Russian gas via Georgia and
Armenia to Turkey. Armenia will also receive Russian gas for
domestic consumption at prices lower than those it paid for gas from
Turkmenistan.
        The initial agreement between Russia and Armenia on
cooperating in the export of Russian natural gas was signed in
Moscow in January 1997 by Armenian Prime Minister Armen
Sargssian and Chernomyrdin. Some six months later, in late June,
Vyakhirev was in Yerevan to discuss the project with Sargssian's
successor as Armenian premier, Robert Kocharyan. Vyakhirev hinted
at the time that Gazprom might use part of a $2.5 billion credit it had
received to finance construction of the new pipeline through
Armenia. Under the terms of the agreement to be signed by Gazprom
and its Armenian equivalent, Armgazprom, the volume of Russian
gas supplies to and via Armenia will increase from 3 billion cubic
meters in 1999 to 9 billion cubic meters in 2003. Russia will receive
55 percent of the profits from the joint venture and Armenia 45
percent. Work on construction of an export pipeline and on
renovating the existing pipeline network within Armenia will create
some 2,000 new jobs initially. That figure may rise to between 7,000
and 10,000.
        In addition to underscoring Moscow's enduring interest in
mutually advantageous economic cooperation with Armenia, the
creation of the joint venture highlights Turkey's increasing
dependence on gas imports to meet its growing energy needs. During
the ninth meeting of the presidents of Black Sea Economic
Cooperation member states in Istanbul in late April, Vyakhirev and
Turkish Energy Minister Recai Kutan signed a 25-year contract worth
$13.5 billion, whereby Turkey will increase its annual purchases of
Russian natural gas from 6 billion cubic meters to 30 billion in 2010.
According to Kutan, that amount will cover approximately half of
Turkey's total gas needs in 2010; by that time, as a result of the
construction of several new gas-fired power-stations, Turkey will
rely on natural gas for 38 percent of its total energy requirement
(compared with 13 percent now). Russia will thus remain the largest
single supplier of gas to Turkey, followed by Iran. (Turkey is the
second largest purchaser of Russian natural gas, after Germany.)
        Kutan and Vyakhirev also agreed to create two new joint
ventures. One of those joint ventures will repair and upgrade the
existing pipeline that supplies Russian gas to Turkey via Ukraine,
Romania, and Bulgaria. (Turkey will pay $1.5 billion toward the
construction of new stretches of pipeline and compressor stations.)
The second will build a new pipeline either overland through the
Caucasus or from Izobilnaya (100 kilometers east of Krasnodar) via
Dzhubga and then under the Black Sea to Samsun on Turkey's Black
Sea coast.
        Gazprom board member Vladimir Rezunenko told Reuters in
March that Gazprom has approached European banks to discuss
credits for financing the underwater Black Sea pipeline, the cost of
which is estimated at $3.3 billion. The technical difficulties involved
in carrying out that project are daunting, however. The 385-
kilometer pipeline would be laid at a depth of 2,100 meters in places,
making it the deepest in the world. This would mean the diameter of
the pipe would have to be quite narrow to withstand both external
and internal pressure, which, in turn, would limit throughput
capacity.
        At a press conference in Moscow in early August, Vyakhirev
nonetheless affirmed that Gazprom still intends to proceed with the
trans-Black Sea pipeline, but he gave no indication of how long
construction might take once funding is secured. The fact that
Moscow and Yerevan agreed in January to build the overland
pipeline suggests that Gazprom never considered the Black Sea
underwater and the Caucasus overland options as mutually exclusive.
Nor, apparently, did Turkey. At the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Istanbul summit in late April, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel
assured his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, that
Ankara's commitment to the underwater Black Sea pipeline did not
mean that the overland alternative through Georgia had been
"removed from the agenda." As a transit country, Georgia stands to
earn tariffs from the pipeline.




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